IL-2 contributes to maintaining a balance between CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells and effector CD4+ T cells required for immune control of blood-stage malaria infection

Floriana Berretta, Jessica St-Pierre, Ciriaco A Piccirillo, Mary M Stevenson
Journal of Immunology 2011 April 15, 186 (8): 4862-71
To investigate the role of CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T (Treg) cells in blood-stage malaria, we compared Plasmodium chabaudi AS infection in wild-type (WT) C57BL/6 and transgenic mice overexpressing the transcription factor Foxp3 (Foxp3Tg) and observed that Foxp3Tg mice experienced lethal infection and deficient malaria-specific immune responses. Adoptive transfer of total CD4(+) T cells from Foxp3Tg mice or CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells from WT mice to naive WT recipients confirmed that high numbers of Treg cells compromised immune control of malaria. Transfer of GFP(+)CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells to naive WT recipients together with immunohistochemical staining of spleens from infected WT mice demonstrated that Foxp3(+) Treg cells localized in the T cell area of the spleen. Determination of CD4(+)Foxp3(+) Treg cell responses in the spleen of infected WT mice revealed a significant but transient increase in CD4(+)Foxp3(+) Treg cells early in infection. This was followed by a significant and sustained decrease due to reduced proliferation and apoptosis of CD4(+)Foxp3(+) Treg cells. Importantly, the kinetics of IL-2 secretion by effector CD4(+)Foxp3(-) T cells coincided with changes in CD4(+)Foxp3(+) cells and the differentiation of CD4(+)T-bet(+)IFN-γ(+) cells required for immune control of infection. Administration of the IL-2/anti-IL-2 mAb (clone JES6-1) complex to infected WT mice increased the severity of P. chabaudi AS infection and promoted expansion of Foxp3(+) Treg cells. Collectively, these data demonstrate that the ability to control and eliminate P. chabaudi AS infection is due to a tight balance between natural Treg cells and effector CD4(+) Th1 cells, a balance regulated in part by IL-2.

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